Salceda presses on lifting tariffs to tame inflation


Posted at Oct 10 2018 11:09 AM

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MANILA - Unimpeded rice importation may help tame inflation, but the removal of tariffs would work better rather than margin caps on chicken and pork, an economic adviser said Wednesday.

Inflation rate could go down to 5.8 percent if rice importation becomes as "unimpeded" as intended, said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, economic adviser to Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"If you don’t deal with rice, you don’t deal with inflation," he told ANC's Headstart.

"Ano ba ang Tagalog ng ‘impede’? Harang. ‘Unimpeded,’ wag harangan. Pag hindi bumaba, may humarang," he said.

Companies and cooperatives "of good standing" with the Securities and Exchange Commission should also be allowed to import their own rice, he said.

"Sa tingin ko naman, pagdating sa licensing, pagdating sa bukbok, hindi nila papabayaan na may bukbok yung ise-serve nila sa kanilang consumers. I think that is a first good step," he said.

Salceda said it is up to the Duterte to "discipline" Agriculture Manny Piñol "if he doesn’t follow the spirit of the President’s instruction."

He also believes that rather than imposing margin caps on the retail prices of pork and chicken as the Department of Trade and Industry envisions, a "more efficient way" to lower the prices of these products is to remove tariffs altogether.

"Kaibigan ko si Mon Lopez (Mon Lopez is my friend), pero I don’t know why he’s going all through these motions, these gyrations in policy when the way to do it is just to lift the tariffs to allow external markets to come in," he said, referring to the trade secretary.

"Hindi ito mahihirap. Eighty percent ng lahat ng chicken dito and pork are essentially by big integrators...Kaya bakit masasaktan sila. Everybody should contribute to the national solution," he said.

(These are not poor. Eighty percent of the chicken and pork here are are essentially by big integrators, so why would they be hurt by this? Everybody should contribute to the national solution.)

Inflation in September zoomed to 6.7 percent, the fastest since February 2009.


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Salceda said had Piñol heeded Duterte's orders from March to import rice, the price of well-milled rice could have gone down to P41 from P49.

"Yung announcement per se, kung hindi umangal si Piñol, it will shift the supply curve to the right, susuka na yung hoarders," he said.

(The announcement per se, had Piñol not resisted, will shift the supply curve to the right, the hoarders would have to give in.)

But instead, Piñol wanted to tighten sanitary phytosanitary standards even on reputable companies.

"May fast lane din naman tayo sa Customs. Ibig sabihin, kilala mo na yung importers na ito, they’re given a good pass through the Customs, hindi na kailangang i-inspect and everything," he said.

(We also have fast lanes in Customs. Meaning, you know the importers and they're given a good pass through the Customs, there's no need to inspect and everything.)

Salceda said "mismanagement" hindered the drop in prices after Duterte's orders.

"Klaro nang sinabi ni Presidente nung March, mag-import tayo; hindi nag-import. Tapos ngayon, sinabi ng Presidente, huwag mo nang pigilan; pipigilan mo, e di lalabas yan sa presyo, lalabas sa inflation," he said.

(What the President said in March was clear, let's import; but they didn't import. Now, the Preisdent is saying don't stop it; you will stop it. Then that will reflect in the prices, in inflation.)